Public Service Recognition Week: Brittney Taylor and Mary Kimble, Correctional Officers at Denver Women’s Correctional Facility
With Colorado’s correctional facilities at high risk of coronavirus infections, partners Brittney Taylor and Mary Kimble have a lot to think about as they go between home and work. But they aren’t necessarily worried.
“My job has gotten more difficult since the pandemic, because you can’t social distance in prison,” said Mary Kimble, a correctional officer at Denver Women’s Correctional Facility. “But I don’t stress because I can’t control it. I can only control what I do, so I wear a mask, have my own personal hand sanitizer, and care for the inmates I’m tasked to work with. I’m so glad to know the six people who run my unit with me have each other’s backs during this time.”
Mary is an officer in housing and her wife Brittney is a sergeant in the mail room, meaning she searches all incoming and outgoing mail and direct packages that go to and from all surrounding prisons in Colorado.
“Even during this time we have to care for the inmates we work with and make sure the public and community are safe. But I sometimes worry whether I will bring the virus in or take it home with me,” said Brittney Taylor. “We have a 15 month old daughter at home and we take great caution when we get home. All our work clothes stay in the garage and we take turns with our daughter so the other person can take a shower. We are trying to stay as safe as possible.”
The pandemic has caused changes to staffing and scheduling at facilities, with workers assuming other jobs, like case managers working as security officers or teachers taking kitchen duty.
“We don’t have the luxury to work from home, but we are dedicated to the work we do for Colorado,” said Mary. “What’s really disappointing is that after all the sacrifices we make as a family of essential employees, we might get a pay cut after having to work through the virus. We hope that at least we’ll have a say with how the state cuts the budget, so they don’t balance it on the backs of the essential workers who are getting us through this crisis.”
While correctional officers like Brittney and Mary work to protect Colorado’s communities, they don’t often get the recognition their work deserves because it doesn’t happen in a public sphere.
“I love my job, but sometimes it feels like it’s under appreciated. It takes a special kind of person to do what we do, and being part of a good team gives you a support system,” said Brittney. “I also want to be a support for others, which is why I’m a union member. Together, we have a unified voice to fight things like unfair work practices or low pay.”
Colorado’s state employees in essential positions put their lives on the line and risk the health and wellness of their families to provide desperately needed care and services to Coloradans during this crisis. That’s why they’re asking legislators to make collective bargaining for state employees a priority when they return to the Capitol this month.